Does your fiction need more conflict? If you’re asking, then the answer is probably yes!
Let’s talk about conflict. We all know it’s UBER important in fiction and narrative nonfiction writing.
Conflict is what makes the storytelling wheels go round. Conflict is what keeps your reader from giving up because the story feels too easy. And let’s face it: Conflict is what keeps your story from being half a page long.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to be an Olympic pole vaulter. Lucky for her, the trials were that week! She made the team and won the gold. The end.
Think about the zillions of dollars a year that the entertainment industry makes on just pure conflict alone, like reality shows and televised sporting events. Do you think millions of people would tune to watch a basketball player sink free-throw after free-throw all by themselves on the court?
So, yeah. Conflict is pretty key to grabbing people’s attention. But does every single scene or chapter in your story have to have conflict? The answer is: Yes.
At least a little bit.
Now, you certainly don’t want every single scene to have MASSIVE, LIFE-CHANGING conflict where the world hangs in the balance. That would get pretty old, pretty fast. There’s an important balance that must be struck. The level of conflict is directly proportional to the goal of the scene.
Oh, right, did I mention every scene has to have a goal too? Well, it does.
That’s how you get the conflict in. Because what is conflict if not something that stands in the way of a goal?
Your hero wants to talk to the boy of their dreams. What’s standing in their way? Fear, self-confidence, the boy’s significant other, a locker door in the face. CONFLICT!
Your hero wants to make a piece of toast. What’s standing in their way? An empty bread bag, an electricity outage, a debilitating fear of toasters. CONFLICT!
Your hero wants to break into the headquarters of their company’s biggest rival and steal top-secret documents. What’s standing in their way? Security guards, an alarm system, the inside man who never showed up, their conscience. CONFLICT!
Your hero just wants to go out to eat in a restaurant and work out in a gym and see a movie in an actual theater with other people! What’s standing in their way?
You get the picture.
So, you see inserting conflict is easy as soon as you establish the goal of your scene. Because once you determine what your hero or main character of the scene hopes to get out of it, the sky’s the limit on what kind of fun obstacles (both external and internal) you can put in their way.
Even quieter, more emotional scenes have a whiff of conflict in them.
A heart-to-heart conversation with a best friend can have whiffs of resentment, betrayal, distrust, jealousy, fear of loss.
A seemingly straight-forward lunch with mom can have whiffs of anxiety, childhood memories, fear of disapproval, tension about a recent fight.
Or if there’s not direct conflict in this scene, the hero is worrying about something they have to do in the next scene and that’s the conflict!
Basically, the harder you make it on your hero, the easier it is for your reader to get behind them. Readers don’t want to read about a character who has it easy, because, who likes that person!? Life is filled with conflict. Sometimes big and sometimes small And since fiction is just reality exaggerated, then go ahead and make it hard.
Conflict! As much as we hate in our day-to-day lives, we love it in our stories.